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Legislature approves autism insurance mandate; opposed by local legislator
Legislature approves autism insurance mandate; opposed by local legislator

State Rep. David Day
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (May 12, 2010) — Senate officials announced today that both houses of the Missouri legislature have given approval to House Bill 1311, which mandates that insurance companies provide coverage for diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

One local legislator, Rep. David Day, R-Dixon, voted against the bill when it came up for a vote in the Missouri House of Representatives, though Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, supported the proposal in the Missouri Senate.

Day, a former board member of the Missouri Farm Bureau, has previously expressed concerns that the bill would add additional costs for insurance companies to do business in Missouri.

Barnitz was on the winning side of the 26 to 6 vote on March 18 to advance that chamber’s version of the same legislation, Senate Bill 618, and on Wednesday’s 27-6 final vote in the Senate which was unanimously supported by all Senate Democrats.

The key vote in the Missouri House of Representatives was on Feb. 18 when Day was on the losing side of a 135 to 18 vote for the House Bill 1311. State Rep. Don Wells, who serves Texas County and the far southeastern end of Pulaski County, voted for the bill.

Wednesday’s final House of Representatives vote was 144 to 16, with Day and 15 other Republicans still opposed and two not voting. All 74 Democrats voted for the bill in the House of Representatives.

Its primary sponsor in the Missouri Senate was Sen. Scott T. Rupp, R-St. Charles; co-sponsor Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, has an autistic son. Rupp said autism is the only disorder out of the top 10 childhood neurobiological disorders that is not covered by health insurance.

The state senate passed a similar bill last year that died in the state house. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature; if he approves, it will take effect on Aug. 28 along with most other new 2010 legislation.

“It’s been a long road to get to this point. This is an important day for Missouri families that struggle with autism,” said Rupp last March when the state senate bill was passed. “The legislation that the Senate approved today is fair for everyone, and most importantly, it gets families the help they need.”

According to a state senate press release, the bill would require most health carriers that issue or renew health benefit plans to provide coverage for diagnosis and treatment of individuals with autism, and would also restrict health carriers from refusing to issue or renew coverage based solely on the fact of an autism diagnosis.

Coverage would be up to $40,000 per year for applied behavior analysis therapy for clients under the age of 21 who are referred for treatment by physicians or psychiatrists, with a cost-of-living adjustment increasing that $40,000 in future years.

That’s less than the $55,000 per year payment earlier approved by the state senate, but state senate, said the therapy is important.

“Children on the autism spectrum deal with so many challenges each and every day,” Schmitt said. “These proven therapies are the difference between whether a family can go to a restaurant without having to leave early, the difference between a child having meaningful friendships. We owe it to these families to give their children the opportunity to reach their full potential. Put simply, this bill is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

Autism affects one out of 91 American children, according to the Centers for Disease Control; senate communications personnel said that’s more than the combined total for AIDS, juvenile diabetes and cancer.

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